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Newsletter
April 27, 2016


Hi Robert,

Being a black atheist in the United States brings with it a unique set of challenges. The black community has very strong Christian roots, so "the question often isn't if I go to church -- it's where." The website Vice talks to five black atheists about their experiences.

Unfounded fear is changing the way the United States labels much of its food. Vermont’s law requiring labels on groceries that include GMOs takes effect soon, and many large food companies have decided to use this labeling on their products nationwide, not just in Vermont. Slate ridicules such labeling for singling out foods that are perfectly safe a victory for “theology rather than epidemiology.”

Last week we shared a story from Boise, Idaho, that looked at the outrageous exemption from child abuse laws that six states give to parents who withhold medical care for religious reasons. We’re glad to be able to tell you that it looks like Tennessee will no longer be one of them. The legislature has passed a bill ending the exemption and the governor is expected to sign it. A GOP state senator and surgeon was a mover of the legislation.

The British government is formally warning travellers from the United Kingdom about the anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Mississippi.

The Galapagos Island finches that contributed so much to Darwin’s insights are still providing crucial information about the genetic mechanics of natural selection. Don’t miss the latest findings.

Robyn Blumner
President & CEO, Richard Dawkins Foundation
CEO, Center for Inquiry

The Experience of Black Atheists Anti-GMO ‘Religion’ Wins; Reason Loses Tenn. About to Dump ‘Faith Healing’ Child Abuse Exemption
What is it like to be a minority within a minority? Vice spoke to five black atheists to learn more about their experience as non-believers in a community where church has played such a central and defining role. “Lots of folks would assume that black folks who are humanist and atheist have sold out the culture -- that they're no longer fully black,” says Anthony Pinn. Products labeled as containing genetically modified ingredients will soon start appearing on the shelves of U.S. markets -- not because of scientifically based safety concerns but because of the hysterics of “anti-GMO clerics,” Slate writes. The website looks at how GMO labeling is the result of a religious food taboo rather than legitimate health concerns. The Tennessee legislature has given final approval to a bill that would end the state’s “spiritual treatment” exemption from child abuse laws. The governor is expected to sign the measure, which will allow law enforcement officers to charge parents whose children get sick or die because medical treatment was withheld. We looked at the effect of these exemptions just last week.
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Video of the Week: Crash Course Philosophy tackles Intelligent Design

The existence of this newsletter suggests the existence of a newsletter writer, right? And that means that the existence of human life suggests that someone must have created that, too. Well, not so much. This is what’s known as the teleological argument for the existence of God, infamously known today as “Intelligent Design.” Hank Green of PBS’s Crash Course in Philosophy gives us a quick and accessible overview of the reasoning behind the teleological argument, and deftly pokes holes in every one. (Including an exploration as to whether his index finger was created with the purpose to pick noses.)

NEWS

Anti-Gay Laws in South Draw Official UK Travel Warning

British travelers thinking of visiting the U.S. and checking their government website for travel tips will find an official warning about the anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Mississippi. It is "both frightening and embarrassing that one of our nation's staunchest allies has warned its citizens of the risks," Human Rights Campaign spokesman says.

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SCIENCE

Darwin’s Finches Yield More Clues on Evolution

The same finches on the Galápagos Islands that helped Darwin develop his theory of natural selection are still shedding light on evolution. The finches developed varied beaks to better take advantage of specific seeds, insects and other available foods. Scientists believe they have identified the genes that control beak size and shape.

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Debate Richard’s Paragraph of the Week

Welcome to Richard’s Paragraph, a chance to read, consider and discuss an idea that Richard has plucked from one of his books or from the book of a colleague to spur exploration and debate. This week‘s paragraph is from page 126 of Caught in the Pulpit by Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola.

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Question of the Week

Last week we asked, “As a medical provider [against murder- including capital punishment and war] I’ve been fighting against insanity here in the USA that the intentional termination of pregnancy is NOT murdering babies! How do we frame agreement on legal abortion as a moral secularist?”
This week’s winner is Reckless Monkey with runners-up Alan4discussion and Craig Domin.

Our favorite answer (non repeating winners only) will receive a copy of “A Brief Candle in the Dark” by Richard Dawkins!


Want to suggest a Question of the Week? Email submissions to us at qotw@richarddawkins.net. (Questions only, please. All answers to bimonthly questions are made only in the comments section of the Question of the Week.)

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